Facilitating Student Engagement: Social Responsibility and Freshmen Learning Communities

Lindsey N. Kingston, Danielle MacCartney, Andrea Miller


Human rights education is advanced as a method for promoting social responsibility, with an emphasis on promoting ideals of “global citizenship” among undergraduate students. At the same time, the practice of learning communities is widespread on college campuses for retaining freshmen and promoting student success. However, there is limited research on the effectiveness of combining these approaches. In response to this literature gap, this article first provides an overview of key concepts—social responsibility, human rights education, and learning communities—and outlines how these terms are currently understood within higher education. Second, the methods and initial findings of a longitudinal study within Webster University’s Social Engagement Learning Community focus on gauging and assessing human rights knowledge and social engagement. Initial findings suggest that most freshmen respondents lack basic human rights knowledge and an activist orientation, yet their empathy and perspective-taking abilities provide foundations for building awareness of human rights issues and social responsibility. Lastly, recommendations are outlined for addressing learning goals related to identity awareness, helping students step outside of their “comfort zones,” and promoting awareness and solutions.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.2.1.63

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